Hunt stepped up as fears grow for Gaelic youth radio star

POLICE yesterday stepped up the hunt for a popular Gaelic broadcaster who has not been seen since last week.

Niall-Iain MacDonald, 33, disappeared on Thursday from Stornoway and was reported missing by his family and colleagues after failing to turn up for work. He was seen on the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry last Friday at around 10am.

Mr MacDonald, who makes youth music programmes for BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal and Gaelic television, is the son of broadcaster and writer Martin MacDonald.

He presents the show Rapal on radio and TV and was involved recently in a competition for new Gaelic songs.

In 2005 he won the Celtic Film and Television Festival Award for radio personality of the year.

Northern Constabulary yesterday issued an appeal for help in finding him. He is described as 6ft 1in, with collar-length, dyed blond hair in a centre parting and blue eyes.

A spokesman said the force was following "a number of lines of inquiry".

Kenny MacIver, a fellow Gaelic broadcaster, said: "Niall-Iain is a one-off with a big following among Gaeldom's younger people. If anyone has seen him please let us know."

Mr MacDonald was born in Aberdeen but spent most of his early life in Inverness, attending Millburn Academy. He joined the BBC in 1998 after approaching Radio Highland for a job while working in a pub.

In an interview for the Rapal website, he said the people he would most like to interview were Billy Connolly, Fran Healy of Travis and Homer Simpson. The person he would most like to meet in a lift was Wonder Woman.

As well as his work, he plays shinty for a club on Lewis.

A friend said yesterday: "This is so out of character. I hope he is safe and well. He is a fantastic character, very bubbly. He is very popular and has done a great deal for promoting Gaelic among teenagers."

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: "Niall-Iain is a talented broadcaster and a popular member of the Gaelic team. His colleagues are hoping he makes contact soon."

On his MySpace blog, Niall-Iain uses the quote "It's Better To Burn Out Than Fade Away".

Yesterday, friends had posted messages for him. One read: "I hope you're OK, chuck. I know you'd rather 'burn than fade'... but sometimes taking a break keeps the burn going longer."